Worldwide Experience joined forces with the BBC’s Deadly 60 and BAFTA-winning English naturalist, writer and television presenter, Steve Backshall for the Rhino Rescue episode of the Deadly 60 which was aired on the BBC in the United Kingdom on the 17 February 2020! For UK residents and BBC subscribers, please follow this link to view the episode: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000fkww/deadly-60-series-4-1-rhino-rescue-special
Steve Backshall and the Deadly 60 team travel to some of the wildest places on earth to come face to face with 60 of the planet’s deadliest creatures.
Worldwide Experience, experts in conservation experiences, were approached by the BBC studios and Steve Backshall to help bring their vision to life for a deeply rooted conservation series surrounding keystone species which are slowly disappearing from the African plains due to poaching.
Worldwide Experience team member, Claire Paton, worked alongside and joined the film crew and Deadly 60 presenter, Steve Backshall, at three different locations in the Eastern Cape where they were all exposed to the darker, deadlier side of conservation and what it takes to keep our wildlife safe in these trying times.
Claire welcomed the Deadly 60 film crew at Port Elizabeth airport, before making their way to the first location, Sibuya Game Reserve. Sibuya Game Reserve was also one of the game reserves hit by poaching in the Eastern Cape and they have undoubtedly developed one of the best anti-poaching units in the country! Sibuya Game Reserve, which is located on the Kariega River near Port Alfred in the Eastern Cape, is now manned by well-armed and well-trained men on foot, vehicles and in the air with the most incredible anti-poaching dogs who work alongside these men who fight tirelessly against the scourge of rhino poaching. In this episode of the Deadly 60, Sibuya Game Reserve Anti-Poaching simulated a poaching scenario with all hands on deck, while Steve Backshall bravely made his way on foot through the game reserve as if he was the alleged poacher to test the efficacy and timing of the anti-poaching crew on the ground and in the air and as you will see, the Sibuya Anti-Poaching unit are a force to be reckoned with, proving that they will track and find you in record time! After an amazing day and night spent with the Sibuya Anti-Poaching unit and the Sibuya staff, we made our way to the next location.
Next stop was the famous Kariega Game Reserve. Kariega made headlines in 2012 when Thandi the female rhino was found still alive and fighting for her life after poachers successfully poached both her horns! Dr William Fowlds, a local wildlife veterinary surgeon, worked patiently on Thandi for weeks to save her face which was butchered by the poachers…all his hard work paid off! Thandi has successfully given birth to 3 rhinos since her poaching incident in 2012! This particular leg of the trip proved to be somewhat tricky as super mom Thandi only gave birth a few weeks before the Deadly 60 crew arrived, and on arrival day at Kariega Game Reserve, the wind decided to blow gales – which for rhino mothers, this means hide out in the thick bush. This is because their hearing and scent are their key senses and these senses become hampered when the wind blows (rhino’s vision is somewhat poorly so the rhino relies on hearing and smelling for protection). It was going to be the equivalent of trying to find a needle in a haystack but we certainly gave it our best and the anti-poaching team were phenomenal at tracking Thandi on foot, we were lucky to see fresh mom and baby tracks but we respected her space and for our safety decided to leave her be in her safe and protected hiding spot. We were extremely lucky to come across Thandi’s two calves before Mthetho’ s arrival. Mthetho, (which means justice) is the name that was given to Thandi’s newest edition, as he was born around the time poachers were found guilty in a nearby court. Kariega’ s anti-poaching team are out in full force to ensure super mom Thandi and her offspring inspire and thrive for future generations!
The final location for this Deadly 60 Rhino Rescue episode, was filmed at our very own Founders Lodge by Mantis, home to the most magnificent male rhino, Rodney! Rodney needed a new tracking collar in order for our anti-poaching unit to keep up to speed with his movements on the reserve to ensure his safety, especially on bad weather days where rhino tend to hide in the thicker bush for safety and cover from the harsh elements. Steve and the Deadly 60 had the chance to work with Dr William Fowlds and his incredible veterinary team for this operation which involved recruiting a helicopter to flush our big beautiful chubby unicorn out of the thicker bush and in to the open in order to dart him from the air and then for the ground team to access him. As soon as Rodney started showing signs of the opioids kicking in (drugs used to immobilize animals by vets), the ground team were on standby to ensure Rodney did not hurt himself when going down and to quickly block his ears and cover his eyes to ease stress levels. Ikhala vet nurse, Candice Momberg and assistant vet, Lisa Graham, ensured Rodney’s breathing and bloodwork were monitored while Dr William Fowlds and Steve Backshall tended to Rodney’s new tracking collar. Within minutes, Rodney was back on his feet! Another successful procedure, a new tracking collar and more importantly, good bloodwork results showing Rodney’s good health!
Every rhino matters and we are so grateful to Steve Backshall, the Deadly 60 crew and the BBC for this incredible story! This beautifully executed and produced episode of the Deadly 60 will no doubt inform and inspire the youth of today and we are so very proud and honoured to have played our part in the making of the Deadly 60’s Rhino Rescue!
To all our ground partners, Dr William Fowlds and the Ikhala Veterinary Team, Sibuya Game Reserve, Kariega Game Reserve and Founders Lodge by Mantis, Brett Barlow, and Heli Pilot, Worldwide Experience cannot thank you enough for rolling out the “green” carpet for our BBC rhino warriors and enabling all the crews on the ground to join forces to make this story of our rhino and their protectors (both two-legged and four-legged) possible!
For more information on how you can further support each of our ground partners and their mission to protect our rhino, please follow the links provided below:
- Sibuya Rhino Foundation: https://www.sibuya.co.za/sibuya-rhino-foundation/
- Kariega Foundation: https://www.kariega.co.za/about/save-the-rhino
- Founders Lodge by Mantis Rhino Support via The White Lion Foundation: https://thewhitelion.foundation/please-support/donate/
- Community Conservation Fund Africa: https://www.ccfa.africa/
- Worldwide Experience offers volunteer placements at the largest rhino orphanage in the world, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information about this incredible project.
- If you are a vet, vet nurse, student or qualified and would like to sign up for our Vets Go Wild courses alongside Dr William Fowlds us, please contact our team at email@example.com for further information.
by Claire Paton